Friday, October 14, 2011

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Spruce Kings

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Prince George Spruce Kings
When: Oct. 14, 7:00 PM
Where: PG Coliseum, Prince George

The Smokies took a travel day yesterday and have arrived in Prince George for the start of a two-game set against the Spruce Kings beginning tonight.

With only one victory on the season thus far, this weekend's games, needless to say, are important. Trail played (in my estimation) their most complete game of the season last Saturday night in Salmon Arm, only to fall short in a 3-2 decision against the Silverbacks. With a pair of tough home games against Penticton and Vernon next week, as well as a coastal road swing coming up at the end of the month, there's really no time like the present for the team to gain some momentum in the tough Interior Conference.

The Smokies spent a fair amount of time working on special teams this week in practice, in particular the penalty kill, which at 58.62% sits 16th in the BCHL. I chatted with defenseman Clayton McEwan about the weekend ahead and what the Smokies have been working on over the past few days, to listen, click here.

I also had a quick conversation with new Smokie Adam Fares, to hear his thoughts about his arrival in Trail, click here.

One player who has been adapting well to a new top-line role is overager Clayton Chessa, who has scored in all but two of Trail's first seven games and leads the team with 7 points. The Surrey product had only 13 goals in 92 previous games in the BCHL with the Eagles, Capitals and Millionaires. Chessa scored the game-winner in Trail's only victory, September 30th at Merritt.

Our Opponent: The Spruce Kings won only 13 games last season, but are well on their way to eclipsing that total before Christmas this year. PG (3-3-0-1, 4th Interior) boasts a strong veteran corps led by the BCHL's leading scorer Paul DeJersey (11-4-15 in 7 GP). 17 year-old Jujhar Khaira isn't far behind with 12 points. Gerry, Leo, and Myles Fitzgerald, who played as rookies last season in Nanaimo, were also brought north with considerable press, the 18 year-old triplets are all averaging a point per game. The Kings' defense corps features one of two former Smoke Eaters on the squad: Ben Matthews spent two seasons in Trail before being traded for current Sioux Falls (USHL) forward Todd Skirving. Dylan Tappe, who had 17 points in his rookie BCHL season with the Smokies last year, was acquired by Prince George in a separate deal. Expect former Nelson Leaf Marcus Beesley to play at least one of this weekend's games, he and Kirk Thompson have split duties thus far.

In the Press Box: Trail's Kyle Horsman and Adam Wheeldon stayed home this weekend and will not play this weekend. PG will be without overage forward Jeff Earnest and d-man Jared Crossan, both with long-term injuries.

Broadcast Info: Former Nelson play-by-play man Matt Anthony has tonight's call on the pay-per-view (and its requisite audio stream) here. Regrettably, I did not make the trip north this time around.

Out of Town: Plenty of KIJHL action this evening, though most of our local teams are on the road. Castlegar visits Creston Valley (7:30, John Bucyk Arena), while the first-place Leafs visit the expansion Summerland Steam (7:35, Summerland Arena). Click here for Castlegar head coach Steve Junker's thoughts on his club's busy weekend ahead. Beaver Valley takes on Spokane in Washington state (8:00, Eagles Ice-A-Rena). Grand Forks host the Kimberley Dynamiters (7:30, GF Arena) in the first of two weekend home fixtures for the Border Bruins. Selkirk College also play their home opener tonight against the University of Victoria (7:30, Castlegar Complex). The Saints dropped their opener two weeks ago against Okanagan College. I chatted with Selkirk assistant and GM Jamie Friess this morning, hear what he had to say here.

Local Look-See: The ECHL season begins tonight on 8 different fronts including in Ontario, California, where former Smokie, and Trail product Travis Gawryletz will make his debut for the Reign against the Bakersfield Condors. Gawryletz, who played two seasons in the BCHL with Trail from 2002-2004, spent the past two seasons with the AHL's Lake Erie Monsters.

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